Worm Farm Jan 23

It has been just a little over a month or so since the worms moved in so I thought it was time for an update.

1st feed – In hindsight food not cut up small enough

Ok so I will be perfectly honest and say we are complete novices when it comes to worms. Worm farms are easy to maintain once they are established. Prior to getting the worms we read all about how to keep them long term but getting to the “long term” stage we were nervous. We waited a week as directed before we feed them, they could have gone longer than a week before the first feed but we were eager to feed them. We only gave them a small amount of potato peelings for their first feed which we cut up smallish.

We weren’t sure after the first feed how often we should be feeding them and how much. Over the next few weeks we put small amounts of kitchen scraps (veggie peelings, strawberry tops, crushed eggshells) a few flowers and a teabag in every few days. You can actually kill the worms by overfeeding them. Our big worry was that we would accidently kill them, I don’t think we did but in hindsight perhaps we did put in too much food too often.

New tray

At about 3 weeks we were worried that the food wasn’t getting eaten / breaking down as we didn’t know how long it would actually take to breakdown. We had a couple of worms escape, unfortunately we didn’t find them in time and they were dead on the balcony. On the underside of the lid we saw condensation forming and kept finding worms there. We were worried they were all trying to escape due to the conditions being wrong in the worm farm or lack of ventilation. This was the week between Christmas and New Year that everything was closed so we couldn’t email Compost Revolution to ask. We panicked and swapped the trays around, normally you don’t swap the trays for about 6 months until they are all full of castings. We put shredded paper in new tray, some of the food and moved the worm blanket. After one month we got an email from Compost Revolution asking how things were going and some tips on common problems, I think it was an automated generated email. Unfortunately the concerns we had weren’t in the frequently asked issues so Womble emailed them, luckily someone was working and emailed him back pretty quickly.

It is common for some worms to venture out and escape, it is just their exploring nature so you do get some causalities. It is only when they start leaving in large numbers that you have an issue with your farm. Worms are attracted to the condensation which is why they were probably on the underside of the lid, some say it is a sign of rain if they are on the lid. At first we were flicking them back into the farm but now we leave them, we don’t want to stress them out. If there is too much condensation, you can leave the lid open a little for about a week. You need a moist environment but not too wet.

The settling in time for worms can take from a few weeks to a few months. At the start worms should have a mostly carbon based diet, strips of wet newspaper is a particular favourite, so we put some in. It is best to chop up food scraps really small (worms have small mouths) or to even blend them up and only give them small amounts until they have really settled in. If you have too many scraps you can freezer them which will also helps break the fibres in the food down. We had actually started freezing our scraps as we have a lot at the moment with summer salads, on Boxing Day I even took over a paper bag full of scraps for my sister’s compost heap during our Christmas catch up. Come winter we can defrost the scraps and add them to the farm then in batches. Crushed eggshells is an excellent source of grit which the worms need to help them digest food. We have set aside a container to put crushed up eggshells in, we are drying them out first and then crushing them. This past weekend we even blended up some of the scraps which had been frozen and gave it to them. We noticed last weekend that it looks like some sort of plant is starting to sprout as we saw seedlings, we think it was the uneaten potato peelings. I don’t think they will last, we have been shifting around some of the soil to help aerate it so that has disturbed them I hope.

Original tray

As suspected we should not have swapped the trays when we did. Really you should only start with one tray on your farm and then add on the second tray when it was full. The trays are designed to be rotated and not a high rise apartment block for worms. It is best that we leave it now since we have already done it. We have gone and removed the 3rd try from the farm, we will add that back on later in the year when we need it.

One of the by products of a worm farm is worm tea. It can take months for the liquid to occur. The important thing is that your worm farm is moist but not dripping wet. To keep it moist you can pour old tea or water over it if it looks like it is drying out. Our farm is moist but not wet. We did pour some water through it this past weekend.

Since we got them it has made us even more conscious of the waste that we have. We are noticing how much we are throwing in the bin. After putting one whole teabag in the farm we discovered our teabags aren’t compostable so from now on we will cut them open and empty them into the farm. After we use up our current teabags we are going to switch to loose leaf tea and use a teaball which I picked up in the Boxing Day sales instead.

I never thought I would worry or stress over a worm. I even found myself saying “I love you” as I walked past. I have to stop myself from playing with them, I’m resisting the urge to pull back the worm blanket each day and say “Peekaboo!”

Lessons Learnt From Our First 4 Weeks

  • Torn up wet paper is a good starter food
  • Don’t feed them too much too soon
  • Cut food up very small or blend it
  • Don’t freak out if one or two get away
  • Worm tea takes awhile to form
  • Leave them alone!

Overall our worms are ok. It will take time for them to settle, they need to get used to us, we need to get used to them. It is a learning curve for all of us. The natural temptation or urge is to want to feed everything to them at the start. They are these amazing little munchers that can reduce our landfill waste but it just takes time for them to settle in.



2 thoughts on “Worm Farm Jan 23

  1. Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. I have 3 compost bins in the garden. I have leaf mulch in 2 and the other is veg scraps, torn up egg boxes, tea and coffee. I’ve been having loose leaf tea the last couple of weeks. It tastes much better I’m sure. I make it in a small teapot, which is enough for my huge mug. Keep us posted…I imagine you may start naming the worms next

    • We’ve decided they are all called Will Burrows, although today I did catch myself calling them cuties as I gave them some strawberry tops.
      Interesting to hear you’ve noticed a taste in the difference with using loose leaf, I wonder if I will too

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